Tag Archives: moving overseas

Haybales and farewells

It’s June, and around here that’s the season of rising temperatures, goodbye parties and little round haystacks.

The haystacks sit rolled up in fields inside and around the city, straw-yellow rolls on a landscape of parched stubble.  The swaying grass has been cut, rolled up and now waits patiently in the sun for the day when it will be piled up precariously on a back of a truck and taken away.

I’ve been thinking about these haystacks a lot as I’ve watched friends pack up their homes and say their goodbyes this week. They too are experiencing the end of a season and wondering what the next one will be like.  Their lives have been cut down and rolled up, and they sit now in this field, in the odd period of in-betweeness, waiting, and saying goodbye.

One day it will be my turn.  For now, my heart is aching for the friendships that will be missed – empty fields in the landscape of my life.

The haybales that I’m seeing everywhere mark the end of a season, it’s ok, right even, to be sad that the grass no longer ripples at the touch of the wind, green from the winter rains or white from the spring sunshine.  It’s ok to be sad, but it’s also a time of year to be hopeful.

Because God’s word for us at this time of year, for the leavers and the left-behinds, is this: the goodness is not lost.

The goodness is not lost.

The grass is cut and rolled up because it’s made it to the end of its season.  If it were to stay in the field it would dry out, and the goodness stored up in it during this season would be lost forever.  But the haybale keeps the grass inside it fresh.  The goodness and growth is locked in so that it can be of use in a new season.

All that you’ve learned, all that you’ve grown, all the love and grace and hope that you have received and then given out to others… all that is not lost.  Somehow it’s just rolled up and put away for another season.

I’m sure I don’t completely understand this picture. But even as the cumulative grief of friends leaving is catching at my heart, so I can feel the hope in these haybales.  God knows what he is doing – the goodness will not be lost.

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Spacewalking: life in the wilderness.

I watched the movie ‘Gravity’ last night, have you
seen it? I rather enjoyed it in a heart-in-my-mouth sort of
way. There’s a scene in it where a space-suited hero is drifting,
cut loose in the vast emptiness of space, alone and helpless.
And I suddenly thought, “I know what that feels like”.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t have a secret previous life as an astronaut (!) but I have had a ‘spaceman’ time in my life,
a time when all the things I did, all the things I knew, all the
things that made me feel ‘me’ were emptied out and I felt as
adrift and powerless as the untethered spacewalker in my
picture.

I often think and write about the seasons of life. Seasons of light
and darkness, seasons of
celebration and of grieving, seasons of
work and seasons of rest. I love this from Ecclesiastes 3:1-5
(NIV)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them

It tells me that this change from one season to another is a normal part of life.

My spaceman season was one of the hardest I’ve walked (or floated!)
through. In fact, it was less of a season and more of a space
between seasons – a wilderness.

I live in Nicosia, Cyprus, a city that has been divided for more than 40 years. The South is part of the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus and the Northern half is in the area occupied by Turkey since 1974. The city’s two halves now have very different peoples, cultures
and languages. It is possible to walk through from one
side to another (with your passport), but to do so you have to
leave one ‘side’ and walk through the ‘buffer zone’- a gap of
about a hundred metres of emptiness between the two sides:
abandoned streets and buildings, layered with 40 years of
dust. No one lives there and no one goes there. Nothing happens
there.

My ‘walk’ from being a ‘normal’ person living in the UK
to being an expat person living in Cyprus felt very much like
a walk from one half of this city into the other. Eventually
I ended up in another place, with new friends and a new
understanding of what God is calling me to do. But for a while
there I was trapped in the emptiness of the buffer zone; in a
nowhere-space between places.

If you’ve been there, you’ll know how hard it is. There are lots of things that can happen to cause an emptying, a time where God strips away roles, tasks or relationships that have filled your time and given you a sense of purpose. There is a sense of grieving for the ‘place’ you
have left behind and uncertainty about what the place that lies
ahead will look like, and about how long it might take to get
there!

I’d like to tell you about how marvellously I pressed into God when I was floating in space… but honestly?

I spent most of my first year in the wilderness confused,
frightened and very, very angry. It took me a long time to
turn and lean on Jesus.   When (about 14 months in) I eventually
calmed down enough and was able to ask God about the blank
sheet of emptiness, he showed me something very beautiful.
wildernessRight down in the corner of the blank sheet, I saw a tiny seedling. Something growing, something completely new. And I realised that the clearing, the emptying of my life had made space for new things
that there would never have been room for before.

Eventually I learned to look at the emptiness of
my wilderness and see it differently.

Instead of endless, terrifying nothingness (like my spaceman picture above), I began to see it as a blank sheet of artist’s paper on which God could ‘start again’ and paint something entirely new. The
emptying, painful though it is, makes room for a re-filling.
As my perspective changed I saw that emptiness is full of
potential, of endless possibilities. When you start to see it
that way, it’s just about possible to surrender to it, and maybe
even to embrace it.

 

This is something I wrote which sums up some of the things I learned in my wilderness. I wonder what you’ve learned in yours?

wildernesspoem small
wilderness
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For your journal: If you’re in a wilderness of some kind or another, write God a letter… tell him what it feels like to be in your wilderness. When we’re angry we often’punish’ God by not speaking to him. Break the silence!

Song of songs 8:5 asks “Who is this coming up from the
wilderness leaning on her beloved
?”

What can you do in your wilderness to lean more on Jesus, so that when you come up out of it you will still be leaning?